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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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'The Unextinguished Fire'
Chickasaw Artist Tops At Santa Fe Market
by Gene Lehmann, Media Relations. Chickasaw Times
Dustin Mater's award-winning sculpture
"The Unextinguished Fire."

SANTA FE, N.M. – Chickasaw artist Dustin Mater feels as if his eclectic art creations are finding greater acceptance and he is on the cusp of an artistic breakthrough.

Mr. Mater's sculpture "The Unextinguished Fire" won First Place in the Sculpture Division at the Southwest Association of Indian Arts (SWAIA) Indian Market, one of the most prestigious Native American art shows in the nation. Artists from across the country vie to be juried into the competition each August.

"This piece actually finished third at the Artesian Arts Festival last May," Mr. Mater said. "I think folks were not accustomed to anything like my peculiar take on Southeast art."

He chose to title the work after his Chickasaw ancestors from antiquity.

"It represents the Chickasaws for never giving up and never giving in; that fire still burns," he said. "When (judges) laid that first place ribbon next to (it), I was just gobsmacked. I kept thinking 'Wow, I won!'"

Mr. Mater said artists in his division had brought their very best works.

"They had such a diverse range of incredible work," he said. "To some degree, it was a little intimidating. More and more people are beginning to gravitate to some of my ideas and many of my creations. It just makes me believe I'm on the right path."

The first place sculpture relies on several different materials, a Dustin Mater trademark.

He describes it as a multiple piece sculpture with a gourd base.

"The outer flames are acid-etched copper with traditional southeastern tribal patterns," he said. "The center piece is a lightning whelk which I carved to make it look like the center of a flame. I tried to use materials that would have been used in antiquity."

Dustin Mater

The artist has been on the Native American art scene for several years now, most notably for his conch shell engravings and gorget wardrobe accessories.

His artwork is on display at the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of the American Indian. His work has also been displayed and sold at Orenda Art International in Paris and Indigenous Brilliance in Edinburgh, Scotland, and accepted nationally from several venues.

"I still love superheroes, robots and monsters," he said.

It was a real-life Chickasaw "superhero" that inspired one of his greatest works of art. That action figure is of astronaut John Herrington, the first member of a Native American tribe to blast off from Earth and walk in the abyss of space.

His gorget shell carving of an ancient Chickasaw man wearing a modern-day space helmet, his arms bearing the feathers of a falcon, was purchased by the Smithsonian. It is a part of the permanent Smithsonian collection and is on display.

The work is titled "John Herrington: 21st Century Bird Man."

Several gorgets have been prominently displayed – and sold – in European markets. His creations continue to delight festival-goers across the country.

His Pendleton blanket design "Spring" was a huge success.

Pendleton Legendary Collection
"Spring" Blanket, 03.24.2012
From Pendleton Woolen Mills
64" X 80"

Mr. Mater admired the company and its dedication to quality. But the Chickasaw artist saw immediately Pendleton was ignoring Southeastern tribes' ancient designs and symbols.

He contacted them.

He pitched his "Spring" design featuring symbols of a Southeastern tribe – specifically Chickasaw but symbols accepted by other members of the Five Civilized Tribes. Pendleton loved it.

The blanket includes the Creator's ever-watchful eye. The revered woodpecker brings good luck and protection. And, typical of
Mater, he colored outside the lines. Life-giving rain drops pepper the work of art.

Mater believes the blanket's design, signifying rebirth and fresh beginnings, is especially appropriate as Mississippian-inspired art is enjoying a Renaissance.

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